Learning to juggle

The last five days have been spent happily in a field, camping with friends, listening to music, being largely out of range of phone signal, with a stash of games and good books. Funny how we celebrate a lack of connectivity when we spend so much time, money and effort to be be connected.

Juggling

Lacking the ability to squander my time on Facebook or the News, it seemed like the perfect time to learn to juggle.

With balls, that is, not with my time.

No, not chainsaws or knives.

Juggling has a wonderful clarity of purpose: keep all the balls in the air, achieve some level of elegance, don’t drop them. It’s a skill you either have or you don’t. You can’t really ‘half juggle‘. You can either juggle, or you’re learning. Or you’ve given up. As it turns out, most of my friends can juggle, leaving me with an audience of advisors and unprofessional coaches.

It’s an interesting experience learning a new manual skill: one that i found i hadn’t faced for a while. You know, intellectually, what the desired end result is. You also know that you will need to put in hours of practice, dropping the balls, to get there. Being familiar with the cognitive mechanisms doesn’t shortcut them. It apparently takes thirty hours to learn to ride a unicycle, but you have to do the twenty nine hours of failure before you hit the jackpot.

Standing there, in the sunshine, dropping the balls, one after another, again and again, in the vain and simple hope that eventually i’d exhaust my incompetence and it would click was no less frustrating for knowing that it was largely true.

Learning to juggle is not a particularly conscious effort: the principles are fairly simple, the errors obvious. I rapidly identified that, in common with most learners, i tended to throw the balls forward, resulting in my walking progressively further forward to keep pace with the balls. Correcting this by trying to throw more directly up in the air resulted in a crick in my neck and most of the balls landing behind me.

The best advice i received from onlookers: stand facing a wall whilst you learn. It prevents you walking forwards and also means you can’t see the sniggerers, even if you can still hear them.

As you stand there, throwing and dropping the balls, you’re acutely aware that you can’t really influence events.

I assume at some cognitive level i’m rewiring connections, but at the purely conscious one, i’m just repeating my mistakes.

Although somehow, slowly, small patterns emerge. Suddenly i’m dropping the balls less: even though i can’t maintain more than three throws at one (one complete circle of the balls), the circle ends with me holding all three, not having dropped them all. I appear to have got better at catching.

By day three, as i’m starting to despair, out of nowhere i manage to get them round twice, before dropping them in surprise. As i stood watching the balls, i had a somewhat distanced sensation of watching them. I could sense the unconscious movement of my hands, reminding me of the sensation when i learnt to touch type. As rapidly as i sensed this, it kicked back into a conscious activity, and i promptly dropped everything.

As i tried to repeat the experience, my performance deteriorated rapidly (as i became ragged in my technique, hoping luck would take over). I can type very fast, but the minute i consciously think about how i make mistakes. I’m unconsciously competent, but when I reduce it to consciousness, incompetent.

Spurred on by my ability to complete full circles, but in the knowledge I was probably going to reside at this plateau for a while, I continued.

On day four, almost as soon as I started, I suddenly found myself juggling. Without having done anything apparently different, suddenly the balls were going round in front of me and I felt distanced from any conscious association with my hands. Maybe five times around, fifteen or more sequential throws and catches, before my flow was fractured by my increasingly g excitement and engagement with the subconscious processes.

I never repeated that feat on day four but i did manage three full revolutions a few more times. In those brief moments of success, I was consciously aware of my unconscious activity. No part of it was within my immediate control. I’m not clear what precisely changed: is it the skill with which I’m throwing the balls, my ability to precisely position them, or my improved ability to catch? Certainly some of the former: by inference, tidy juggling (by which I mean that which doesn’t involve me running around chasing the balls) must involve correct placement of each ball, so I guess I managed that. Maybe it’s also the consistency with which I am able to do it, or perhaps the ability to iron out wrinkles in the system: when a ball goes slightly out of place I can bring it back into line better.

Maybe subconsciously it’s a combination of perfecting a core movement whilst also having a range of better rehearsed emergency techniques when things deviate?

So can I juggle? Well, I guess I can say that I have: but I’m certainly unable to repeat it on demand, which means I’m still learning. And it means that whilst today I’m flying to America for work, tucked away in my bag, blades of sun parched grass stuck to them, are three juggling balls waiting for the next practice.

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Creating Spaces: a framework for devolved creativity

The Social Age requires agility, from both organisations and individuals. It’s a time of constant change and what we did yesterday may not work again tomorrow because the ecosystem is evolving around us. When Henry Ford gave us the production line and Six Sigma optimised it, we thought that the challenge was to do things efficiently, to replicate and copy, to streamline and unify. Whilst there’s still a place for that, we may be missing a trick: the ragged edges of innovation and creativity are the antithesis of order, but may be what we need to be agile.

Devolved Creativity

Optimisation was about control: every microscopic detail of placement and order. Agility is about community, about ‘sense making‘, about uninhibited curiosity, social reputation and the ability to share stories widely. Agility is about innovation, not replication.

Formal organisational hierarchy is a manifestation of control: to be agile, we have to create spaces for experimentation. The role of leadership becomes less about setting direction, more about facilitating co-creation.

Formal hierarchy already gives us the spaces for creativity: we call them teams, projects and meetings. What’s needed is permission: a co-created set of rules and a framework for action. We have to understand what’s safe, what the consequences are of thinking differently, what the rewards are for success.

But the curiosity we require for agility isn’t limited to the physical spaces of work or the formal structures that define the hierarchy: in the Social Age, we inhabit a virtual network of communities and spaces that are all our own. Our ability to create meaning, to be effective, happens within and alongside these communities.

In an agile organisation, leadership creates (and co-creates) permission to think differently: the story of change is then co-owned at every level. We use technology and an understanding of rules to create space for devolved creativity.

Creativity may be internally or externally moderated: internally moderated creativity is that which happens inside our heads, it’s unconstrained, whilst externally moderated creativity may be within a framework and within communities. It’s this latter type of creativity that we may most easily unleash within organisational spaces.

I’m working on a full curriculum of skills around this, but in the meantime, here’s a framework.

Devolved Creativity Model

Under an externally moderated model of creativity, we can establish the community and put frames around our thinking. Within those frames, we explore potential, ideas are tested and assessed within the community and iterated forward. At each stage, the creative process is narrated, both individually, within the community and out to the organisation. It’s this narrative that provides the legacy.

Framing does constrain creativity, but it also provides realistic space and permission. Frames may be around time, around budget, around technology or around legal and ethical frameworks. For example, we may devolve creativity to a team, but do so with an attached timeframe and budget requirement. Or we may set them the task to establish specific data points that can link into business metrics or other projects.

Instead of giving them instructions on what they should do, we are creating a framework that they should work within. It’s a small but significant different. There is no process at play here, no system to determine action: the momentum will be generated within the community and the ground rules are up for grabs.

The devolution of this type of externally moderated creativity ties into notions of social capital and reputation: anyone, irrespective of their formal role within the hierarchy, can develop social reputation and exert social authority within these creative spaces.

Whilst process and formulae tend to cement our position and permission within a structure, a creative space allows us to curate our own presence according to our ability to add value. Within a truly devolved creative space, that should include permission to withdraw from the space if we feel we can add no value (although if we explore the roles we can take within a community, it’s unlikely there’s none we could fulfil).

The frames don’t need to be tight: it’s perfectly possible to iterate from very loose frames to very tight ones: as long as we provide a narrative from each, we can compare the outputs at each stage and see what we are ruling out. Again, this approach differs from traditional hierarchical approaches, which still miss out the good stuff, but do so unconsciously.

Similarly, the loose frames should not just take place at the top of the organisation (on the assumption that creativity and strategy can only cascade down), but rather should be co-created by framing them at all levels or, even better, creating a community that stands outside formal hierarchy but includes and welcomes people from each level. These may be self selecting or defined: again, we are able to challenge assumptions about resource deployment by allowing people to self select and deploy where they feel they can add value.

That’s a far more effective approach than just assuming someone’s time is where the value is added: it’s not. It’s about how effective they are, and that may not be a function of seniority or time.

The exploration we do within these frames may be considered the most traditionally ‘creative’ aspect. Most likely, it’s facilitated by the technologies we use, the technologies that draw us together and let us share ideas effectively. But the technology itself is incidental to the permissions: clarity around rules, permanence and consequence.

In the digital realm, we are used to permanence, but not necessarily to evolving consequence: what is permissible within a context today may be unwelcome tomorrow. When we ask people to engage in creative activities, they are exposing their evolving thought processes to scrutiny: it’s all well and good doing that in a safe and permissive environment, but in a years time, when there’s a round of redundancies coming, are you still comfortable with those weaknesses you expressed?

Exploration is iterative: we are looking to facilitate (within our frames) the expression, rehearsal and reworking of multiple ideas. Each one tested and assessed by the community to create data points for review and comparison.

The key to this stage is uninhibited curiosity: it’s not about following the process for how it was done last time. It’s about finding out how best to do it this time. If all other parameters are the same, it’s possible that the way we did it before will work just as well, but we have to question. Everything. Agility is about questioning and then questioning again and, once we have answers we are satisfied with, we add layers of context and interpretation and share our narratives, share our stories.

Levels of Narrative

When we are exploring and testing our ideas, we need to quantify the change that we see. Encouraging quantification in what may feel like a qualitative field of creativity may seem counter intuitive, but remember that externally moderated creativity is not a soft alternative to scientific or process driven methodologies. It’s intended to make us more effective by being better adapted to our environment, so we have to measure. Measuring is not the enemy of creativity: it’s what validates it.

The determination of suitability is the test we apply to outcomes: what have we done differently, what was our thought process, what options did we pursue and which did we abandon. And why? The narrative of our curiosity is valuable both within our own learning process but also for others as they seek to replicate or innovate within their own space.

Narrative is about crafting a story of success and failure, analysing it to the best of our individual and group capability and sharing it. The cumulative effect of this analysis, narrative and sharing is learning. We individually learn how the creative process allowed us to achieve different outcomes through different efforts: we build our mental schema and toolkit to do it again next time, differently. Within groups it builds momentum and alignment around shared learning and shared success. For organisations, it build a validation of approach and tribal knowledge that is highly accessible and durable.

This is an outline framework for devolved creativity within organisations: there’s more depth to build into it, but i’m #WorkingOutLoud and sharing it as it evolves.

Organisations that are able to unleash creativity, that are able to create permission to think differently will be left with one final challenge: to reward agility.

As it’s often a factor of semi social communities, semi formal spaces, we have to pioneer ways to reflect social authority and reputation, forged through our actions within these communities, back into formal organisational performance management and reporting structures. We have to do this to ensure we call out and recognise excellence and give kudos to individuals and teams.

In the Social Age, this reputation is currency and if we are able, as an organisation, to recognise and reward it, it will strengthen both trust and durability of the relationship with the team.

Unlocking creativity, devolving it within frameworks, this is what makes an organisation agile, fit for the Social Age.

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Radical Change: engaging communities

It doesn’t have to be ‘them and us‘. With the right type of engagement, it can be ‘us‘ all around. I’m seeing increased interest in the power of socially moderated and driven change models: harnessing the power of community to co-create and co-own the change.

Sustained Subversion

Call it ‘sanctioned subversion‘. It allows a little of the anarchic into the formal organisational space. Creating communities of change who both shape the ideas and take responsibility for execution: recognising that change itself isn’t hard, it’s engagement and momentum that count.

The NHS Healthcare Radicals model is one of the strongest i’ve seen: an officially sanctioned community for change couched in fully social terms. The very language is social and provocative: you study to become a ‘radical‘, not a graduate. It’s a deliberate choice of words: it provides permission to think differently and to align yourself with dramatic change. Radicals don’t do things by halves.

NHS Change day, which occurs in different healthcare systems globally now, is a focal point for change, but the Radicals have a wider remit than one day a year: the movement creates an impetus for introspection (of both ourselves and the systems we inhabit) and provokes momentum.

Momentum is one of the hardest aspects of change: you can easily create disturbance, but like ripples on the water, it soon fades away. True change requires momentum over time, and that can only be generated from within the community, not input from outside. It’s socially created and socially moderated, so almost by definition, it requires engagement from the community. The Healthcare Radicals model achieves this by recognising and amplifying individual momentum. By creating transparency, it builds individual reputation as well as the reputation of the change idea itself.

Crucially, it’s change within a framework, but without a set agenda. It’s a methodology with a devolved roadmap. Change is desired and required, but the micro details of the change are defined and owned by the community, which makes sense because it’s the community that holds the best knowledge at this level and which ultimately has to make the change happen.

The role of the organisation is not necessarily to define the change (although it may define the parameters, such as cost or efficiency). The role of the organisation in a socially moderated change model is to facilitate the change.

We all have our reputation within communities: it’s forged on our behaviour and actions over time. Any formal system that recognises social reputation is onto a winner: it means we are rewarding people for the value they add as recognised by the community itself.

In a social model, the challenge for the organisation is to grant permission to think differently: create the space for disturbance, not the disturbance itself.

I’m starting to evolve a model for this type of social change: think of it as finding the keys to unlock momentum within the organisation.

Social Change Model - four keys

We can view four keys for change, each facilitated by a catalyst

I’m focussing on four key dimensions: permission, pathways, reinforcement and recognition. Within each are key catalysts: amplification, mechanism, narrative and reward.

Permission is about creating space to think differently: amplification enables this by providing social reinforcement and volume to good ideas.

Pathway is about channeling individually created momentum into aligned community efforts. It’s about facilitating technologies and appropriate models of moderation and control. It’s easy to kill change at this stage if we get it wrong.

Reinforcement is where we start to put organisational muscle behind socially created and moderated change. It’s where the amplification really starts to bite and where the roadmap emerges. At this stage, it’s all about stories and narrative.

Recognition means calling out success as well as failure: it’s driven out of storytelling and personal narratives of change. It also includes reward, but recognising that money may not be the primary driver: reputation counts in the Social Age.

Change is not about pushing from the top down: partly because whilst the view from the top is great, it misses the granularity of detail from the floor, but also because true change has to be co-created and co-owned.

Don’t mistake co-ownership for diluted change: think of it as more effective. You still get your say, but you benefit from the wisdom of the community. If we think there is no wisdom in the community, we’re reverting to a ‘them and us‘ mindset, where we ‘do‘ change to people. That’s ok, if you’re ok alienating your community. And bearing in mind that ‘community‘ sits at the heart of the Social Age, that may not be so smart.

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For the love of books

Despite the rush as i left the house, i still found time to dash back upstairs to grab a book. But which to take? Two sat on my desk: Clark Quinn’s new book on ‘innovation‘ or Slash’s biography? Now, Clark’s a cool guy, and his book has a cool cover, but i have to admit Slash won out. It was going to be a long train journey and i can’t bear to be away from home without a book. The allure of debauched rock ‘n’ roll was irresistible in the end.

For the Love of Books

Of course, in the event i didn’t read a page, opting instead to write on the iPad, but i still felt better for it being there.

I do, like the rest of you no doubt, have a hundred digital books on the iPad, unread and largely a response to my inherent guilt at not having read more Hemingway as a student. I am reassured by it’s very presence in the iBookstore, although i detest reading books on the device.

When it comes to reading books, i’m very much a luddite, as my home reflects: creaking shelves bear testament to four decades of inveterate and impulsive purchases. At last count, i reckon i’ve read about half, but it’s ok because i’m a better person by osmosis through cohabiting with the rest.

Our relationship with books is evolving, both individually and as a society: contrary to received wisdom, they have stubbornly refused to die. The format of the physical book has a distinct appeal: it’s both comforting and comfortable, something that eludes my iPad, no matter how much i love it. I could of course buy a Kindle: it’s not as though i’m shy of technology, but i suspect the weight of yet another charger to carry around may prove the final straw and, when it comes to it, Slash doesn’t run out of battery.

The location of stories

As well as their physical format, books are a conceptual framework, a structure we write within that captures a coherent story. Endlessly scrollable web pages are all well and good, but most devices maintain the illusion of the printed and numbered page, even though they don’t need to. It’s just something embedded in our mindset: ‘turning another page‘, ‘starting a new chapter‘, ‘closing the book‘. They’ve permeated our language and culture and shaped how we structure knowledge and stories.

Aside from occasionally actually reading them, we do a lot with books: we share them as tokens of respect, love and reinforcement. We write messages in them or use them to prop up our laptops. We love them for themselves, displaying them in pride of place, in long rows, on dusty shelves or, in the case of my friend Emma, colour coordinated through two sides of the lounge. I admire the organisation, even if my own taxonomy is based less on hue, more on chronology and heft.

Occasionally, we write them.

I used to keep them pristine but a joy of adulthood was learning it was ok for me to annotate them, to fill the margins with my spidery scrawls, circle and underline, but never to neon highlight: some things are a step too far. That was about the extent of my rebellion. Slash would not approve.

We collect books, using them to curate our space, to define the parameters of our curiosity: we use them to boast subliminally about our academic and literary prowess. Have you really read Cloud Atlas? My copy is as untouched as the day my mother gave it to me. I did survive the film though.

Books are reflective: whilst so much of the media at our fingertips and in our pockets is cursory and immediate, the processes of writing and reading a book require a certain commitment, a certain dedication.

Some books tell us what to do: gardening, cooking, yoga or home improvement. For some, their religious texts. They are authoritative and didactic, disciplinary and coercive. Others are wonderfully abstract and self indulgent, creative in both content and structure, even in the materials they are made of.

The books we buy, the books we share, these are part of the social structures that tie us together, forging bonds and establishing commonality in thought and deed. Books serve a unifying function in our societies (although they can also be agents of change, subversive and secretive stories, handed under the table and scanned under the sheets at night).

Unlike a webpage, a book is a snapshot in time: it’s what the author thought when they wrote it, when they typed the last full stop. Period. It almost certainly doesn’t reflect exactly what they think now (just as so many of my own books reflect my studies and interests in the past: the fossilised strata of my own growth and thinking).

Books are beautiful, and whilst i celebrate and delight in the opportunities to write and share through digital and social channels, there’s nothing quite like a good book to make the world a better place.

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Rewriting the code: time for reflection

It’s been a busy week: new ideas, new people, new places. Today, back at home again, it’s a bit of a blur. I need time to reflect: to work out how to contextualise this new information with what i already know to be true.

Rewriting the code: reflection

Reflection is about embedding new knowledge and rehearsing what we do with it. We replay conversations and reframe what we think.

It’s where learning really takes place, as our mindset changes to incorporate new ideas and reiterate old ones.

Part of that reflective process is creating narratives and sharing them through our varied communities.

It’s a bit like rewriting the code that makes us tick.

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Unleashing Creativity: getting fit for the Social Age

I’m not creative” is one of the most frustrating things people say to me. To define yourself by what you can’t achieve misses the point: creativity is not the end result, it’s the journey we take to get there. We are all creative: it’s in our DNA.

Internally and Externally Moderated Creativity

I’ve spent some time exploring creativity in the context of learning: through art, music and other media. I’m trying to refine these ideas now, to tease out a structure for understanding creativity and innovation within an organisational context. The Social Age requires agility: the ability to create meaning within communities. The challenge for organisations is to create spaces for experimentation, spaces to play, spaces to learn. We need to provide permission to think differently.

Within these spaces, individuals and communities can play with the learning, conducting ‘sense making‘ activities and sharing their stories in the form of personal and co-created group narratives.

Today, i’m reflecting on internally and externally moderated creativity.

Internally moderated creativity is that which takes place in our heads and through our actions: whilst shaped by our learnt frameworks of thinking, it’s essentially a lone and unstructured activity, seeking inspiration and waiting for it to strike.

Externally moderated creativity is that which takes place within a structure of some sort: a structure that may actually provide additional impetus and momentum to the process, certainly a loose structure that can help develop creativity in organisations without introducing risk.

I’m being pragmatic: this isn’t about being Rembrandt or Picasso, it’s about being more agile at work and creating new opportunities for both ourselves and the organisations we work within.

There are benefits for organisations that actively create frameworks and permissions for creative thought: engineering in the spaces, technologies and structures that allow us to think differently. Technology alone won’t cut it: the technology may facilitate the creative thinking, but it won’t trigger or guarantee it. Technology is more about enabling us to form communities around ideas and share our stories widely. It’s the mechanism of amplification rather than the trigger.

The permission piece is important: permission is about both rules to govern behaviour and the metrics used to reward or punish it.

We have to be clear on permissions and clear how we measure the outputs, as well as being clear on the permanence of mistakes and the consequences of failure: if we encourage agile working, failure is assured and welcome.

Agility

What are the elements of creativity? It’s not about throwing away the old, but it does involve questioning it. Creativity may be both the process we use in that questioning and also the way we describe the output, but it doesn’t have to be both. For example, a create problem solving approach in business may result in the most pragmatic and boring solution, but one that’s effective. It’s not about making things creative in an artistic sense. Although a benefit of allowing and rewarding creative thinking is that we may create more artistically creative outputs!

A process for creativity is not one that defines the outputs: by it’s nature, that type of process is what creative thinking subverts. Rather it’s a structure for thinking, testing, sharing and learning. A piece of modern art may be challenging in it’s subject matter, in it’s execution, but the physical processes required to commission, build and display it may be exceptionally mundane. I have a friend who was commissioned to build an organ, to be displayed in the Southbank Centre. It had to be played by children, largely unattended, so needed to be robust and also engaging in both form and performance. The resulting device was somewhat steampunk: involving a bicycle and a lot of plumbing supplies, but the main concern of the organisation was whether it would fit through the doorway.

If you start out thinking what will fit through the doorway, you may not achieve your potential. But if you create something amazing but that can’t fit through, it may serve no purpose.

Externally moderated creativity is about the framework to meet both needs: it’s about allowing the steampunk mindset whilst ensuring it fits through the door.

Creativity and Innovation

Understanding foundation concepts can enable us to be more creative in our thinking and execution. For example, i recently read a little about value chains: it’s a simple concept, but one that has helped me shape the business enormously. Essentially it’s about thinking out of all the things you do, what actually adds value, and what are you doing simply because you’ve always done it or assumed you always have to do it. Agile businesses do the things that add value and push out the things that habit has embedded into our routines. The ways we push those things out may be creative: using external suppliers, adapting process or creating technology.

PayPal is a creative solution to a Social Age problem: i don’t trust every online retailer, but i do trust PayPal, and it also means i only have to remember and update one account. They sit within the retail experience, but just at one point: payment. They’ve not opened their own store or offer delivery by drone, they just process my payment effortlessly and safely. From a retailers point of view, why develop your own payment processing capability when you can use PayPal and focus your efforts on adding value elsewhere.

If we paint by numbers, we are still painting, but we may not be being creative: we are replicating, not innovating.

Look at music: when an orchestra plays, it requires two dimensions of control. The first is the expertise of each individual musician. They need to be able to read music, produce a great sound and play in time with their colleagues. If you’re a soloist, you need to be able to do all that and also inflect your playing with emotions and colour, to bring the music to life. This is all a form of internally moderated creativity, but there is also a conductor: an individual whose role it is to coordinate and invigorate the music. Whilst as a musician i start from my direct experience of my hands upon the instrument and the feedback through my ears and body, the conductor starts from the perspective of the full sound: they are looking at the whole story when we are looking at individual words.

External moderation provide a feedback loop, it helps give direction and structure to the activity with a holistic viewpoint.

Encouraging creativity helps organisations to be agile in the Social Age. Agility is about questioning, about reflection and learning. Agility is about solving problems today and doing it again, differently, tomorrow. I believe that only agile organisations will be fit to meet the challenges of constant change and evolving business environments in the future: organisations that are able to adapt and provide provocative spaces for free thinking.

We can rely on creativity spontaneously emerging, or we can foster it through active engagement. Understanding how communities form and the purposes they serve is a start. Developing a framework for organisational creativity is the next step, something i’m working on this summer. Creating the right permissions for it to be used is also key. Permission to think and act differently.

If we only address part of the issue, our solution will be incomplete and fail: you can easily create disturbance, but if you fail to nurture the communities and conversations, you fail. We can easily implement technology, but if we don’t understand what purposes the communities serve that this facilitates, we will fail. We can easily put in place rules and processes, but if they’re not co-created with great authenticity by the community, they will fail. Why? Because creativity isn’t about process, although it can be about frameworks. It’s equally about mindset and permissions. Get that right and the rest will follow. Mindset is right at the heart of any value chain.

Creativity, Co-Creation and Storytelling

Nearly all organisations operate with devolved responsibility: our most common day to day interaction with that is the structure of teams and projects. Those entities operate within the overall organisational structure, but take ownership of specific duties, projects or operations. For us to feel we can be creative in our thinking within these spaces, we need to look at how to give the right permissions at this team level.

We have to understand the audience and impacts: if we restrict thinking with too much thought of what we’ve done before, our actions will replicate that. But if we abandon that tribal knowledge and coherent process, we may lose focus. Instead we have to create pockets for creative approaches, whilst maintaining some structure, and we address the actions and outputs from these spaces accordingly.

An instinctive organisational reaction to the word ‘creativity‘ is to imagine it’s somehow soft, somehow unscientific and unquantifiable. We tend to compartmentalise people in the somewhat derogatory categories of ‘creative‘ types (or ‘techies‘) as if the two are somehow opposed. This dichotomy is false and divisive: it leads to people imagining themselves into boxes of their own construction and limiting themselves accordingly.

To be creative, you just have to be willing to think differently. It’s about the journey, not the output.

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Memories of Eden

The landscape in Cornwall is scarred: spoil heaps from a millennia of mining casting long shadows across the fields. Artificial hills with terraced slopes, their original blackness softened now by green as nature reclaims her own. Quarries and open cast mines scour great holes in the ground, and in one of these lies the Eden Project, visionary retreat and haven for a bio diverse collection and interpretation centre.

Eden is magical, it’s vision broad, it’s setting dramatic. The modernist biomes, giant greenhouse habitats, squat in the bottom of the former quarry like futuristic beetles. You can spend a day walking from tundra to vineyard, heathland to desert, experiencing the sights, sounds and smells to match.

I’m here today for a concert, one of the regular events hosted in this inspirational space, before taking the long, long train ride into London crack of dawn tomorrow when I rejoin the world.

The contrast gives it power: it’s a place divorced from reality, a snapshot of nature in a goldfish bowl with a self determined conservation message and ethic.

I admire the vision and effort required to establish it and the beauty of it’s execution.

Tomorrow, when I return to the urban sprawl, I’ll carry part of the beauty with me, rejuvenated by nature.

We need time to retreat, to reflect, to change, to learn.

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